Review: Transcend StoreJet 25M: Rasputin’s hard drive

David Braue
28 October, 2008
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When we get products for review, journalists are usually very careful to be as gentle as possible so as to not damage them. But when the promotional literature features said product being run over with a car and chewed by a dog, well, we can’t help but take that as license to get a little rough.

Oh, yeah.

Transcend’s StoreJet 25M 2.5″ external hard drive is a product that’s just asking to be manhandled. Part of a new breed of ‘ruggedised’ external hard drives, it’s designed to take more than a few knocks before giving in – without losing data on the internal hard drive (160GB, 250GB, 320GB or 500GB flavours).

Although I did manage to push it to breaking point, it performed handsomely by taking a whole lot more punishment than I ever expected it would – and more than it ever would in the real world, unless you perhaps work in the American Tourister luggage testing factory.

Ex Military. The StoreJet’s claim to toughness is based on compliance with the US military’s MIL-STD-810F standard, which (as I learned after some Googling) is the government-standard method for ensuring the strength of packaging and devices during exposure to non-repetitive shock. In other words, you can drop it a lot.

The particular portion of the specification to which the StoreJet is compliant – Method 516.5, Procedure IV – relates to methods for testing that a product is strong enough to survive repeated drops from 122cm (4 feet) off the ground (chest-high on the average soldier). (it’s worth noting that this is 32cm higher than the 90cm that competitors like LaCie’s Rugged Hard Drive guarantee).

Depending on how bad your insomnia is, you can slog through Trimble’s annotated version of the standard, Wikipedia’s summary here, or the actual military specification here (but please finish this review before you get too stuck into it; we’d hate for you to fall asleep without finding out what happens at the end).

Decipher the militaryspeak and you get some simple testing instructions:

(1) drop the thing 26 times from a height of 122cm, onto each corner and edge, preferably onto something hard.

(2) see if it still works.

Now, I’m not sure if the Transcend people expected me to do this, or just take their word for it, but frankly, the picture of the car driving over the hard drive that they sent me was too much of an invitation to ignore. If they didn’t want the drive punished a little, perhaps they should have sent a picture of it on a feather-down pillow.

Military intelligence. The drive enclosure is small, and the 206g unit fits comfortably in one hand. It has a single button, which I gather launches the enclosed StoreJet elite backup software – but since the backup software is Windows-only, it was irrelevant to this review.

The first part of the testing was to get a baseline, so I plugged in the drive via its USB 2.0 port. It promptly powered up, and Mac OS X told me it had 298GB free space. The drive is formatted as FAT32, which means it works on both Mac and Windows, but if you’re using big files and Macs only, you’ll probably want to reformat it as HFS+.

I transferred a 2.9GB test file to the drive, and it took around 4 minutes – on par with the Verbatim SmartDisk I reviewed, but did not drop or step on, recently.

I then went outside to test the drive’s drop-test performance. To simulate your average office environment, I put a swatch of average household carpet on top of a concrete footpath (what can I say – I’m a softie), then used a 1.22m spirit level to gauge the correct height for the drop.

A series of 26 consecutive drops saw the unit bounce a fair bit, but by the end of the testing it showed no damage except a slight scuff on one corner and an almost imperceptible mismatch between the rubber casing and the plastic logo. Proving its MIL-STD-810F compliance, I plugged the unit back into the drive and it appeared, ready to read and write, just as before. The Mac OS X Disk Utility found no apparent problems with the drive, so I had to declare that part of the test a success.

Driving test. A normal person might have left it there, but as I mentioned, the promotional literature had set the bar a bit higher – so I started high jumping.

The first test was to drive over the drive. Our test vehicle, a 2002 Toyota RAV 4 with kerb weight of 1380kg, was backed over and on top of the drive, giving it an effective weight load of 345kg (although, admittedly, the tyre was wider than the drive so some of the weight still went on the ground). I then drove back over the unit in a steady motion, and was impressed to find that it had suffered no outward damage at all. Plugging it into the Mac, the drive once again roared to life.

Clearly, Transcend has done something right because the drive was proving to be tough as nails. I then proceeded to replicate the rest of the testing scenarios on the site as best I could.

Lacking a big rock, I dropped a heavy concrete paver onto the hard drive, which ended up dirty but unscathed – and still worked when plugged in.

I then put the unit under the leg of a chair and sat on it; all fine.

I tried to feed the hard drive to the dog, but he just looked at me strangely and then ran off to bark at passersby (mental note: bring dog back to obedience class).

Slamming the drive in the door repeatedly didn’t stop it from being recognised by the Mac, nor did standing on it.

It was only when I tried thinking of any other situation that might happen to a drive like this, and thought of the unit dropping down the stairs, that I found its weakness (to be honest, I think any of us would be feeling pretty weak after enduring similar punishment). Repeated drops onto a concrete stoop, simulating a fall down hard stairs, finally rendered the drive unrecognisable – to the Mac, that is. If the tear on the outside rubber wasn’t confirmation enough that the drive had struggled, the repeated clicking from the hard drive confirmed it was indeed DOA.

Australian Macworld buying advice. There aren’t many pieces of IT gear strong enough that you can park your car on top of them, so the Transcend StoreJet 25M gets full marks for toughness. It’s also a perfectly good external drive, although a faster FireWire interface would have been nice, as would Mac-compatible software. Its durability does come at a slight price premium, but it’s well worth it if you’re looking for some external storage that can survive life’s little knocks and come out smiling.

OS compatibility OS X, Windows, Linux
Australian contact Synnex Australia, 1300 100 100, www.synnex.com.au
Price as rated $159.95 (250GB), $179.95 (320GB), $339.95 (500GB)
Company Transcend
Cons No FireWire interface, software not for Macs
Pros Durable, lightweight
Rating 4
Product Transcend StoreJet 25M

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